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Can you identify this feature? 19th century 1st Rates


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I'm seriously considering a project to build HMS Marlborough of 1855 (I find these unloved final ships of the line rather fascinating). The lines plans for both her and her very-near sister Duke of Wellington are in far too poor a condition to copy at the moment, but there's enough in the other sheets to reconstruct with good confidence (as-built lines up to gundeck level are present for Marlborough). The presence of a few good in-service photos also helps with these ships!

 

However, I have just recently spotted a feature on these two ships that I've never seen before. It looks a little like a bracket, possibly with a small opening, just abaft the first port on the upper deck. It appears a little more 'naked' on Duke of Wellington; on Marlborough it looks like more effort has been made to blend it into the surrounding hull. The feature was still present, although seemingly covered with canvas, when she was Vernon II.

 

Does anyone know what these features are, and for? And are there any clearer examples of them?

 

 

 

DoW-Keyham.jpg

Marlborough-Malta.jpg

VernonII.jpg

Edited by Martocticvs
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It looks like a special port that opens astern the port, sideways like a door. On the Marlborough, it looks the clearest. Note that there are no upper and lower ports like on all the others.

 

There is a hole in the door's center, and a side channel to the hole in the door so that it might be shut forward around a cable of some kind running through the bridle port. One might wish to secure the port in heavy seas while still passing ropes out to the jib, or anchor or something important outside and forward.

 

Or it could be the external portion of a modern, Victorian Pissdale. :10_1_10:

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Interesting they aren’t on the other decks, which makes me wonder, normally upper deck under the forecastle was the location of the sick berth, so whether ventilation (rather than have the adjacent bridle or chase ports open which would be difficult in any rough weather / seas) or pissdales were they associated with the sick berth?

 

Gary

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On 7/17/2019 at 9:37 AM, michaelpsutton2 said:

I believe that they are a kind of fairlead for mooring in what is being used as a bridle port.They may have been intended for use with chain.

Suspect you are following the right scent, would expect a gang of fairleads and blocks to lead the mooring line to the Capstan. Ever lead the forward line through a chock, around a bit and on to the Capstan? When the ship was in place then using a stopper to hold the tension while taking the turns on the bitts so you could double up without losing the tension, bundling with small line and putting the Rat Guards on. Those openings look to be in the proper place for mooring alongside a pier. Image result for mooring arrangement ship alongside

 

Edited by jud
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Thanks for the input everyone! The mooring fairlead sounds compelling. I'm waiting for the plans to arrive right now, so it will be interesting to see if there's anything marked on them.

 

I've had a look for photos of these ships' contempories, and I don't see this feature on any of them (not many photos though, Victoria having the clearest photo). Interestingly, a photo of Duke of Wellington during her time as flagship at Porstmouth shows no hint of this feature, and another photo of Marlborough in Valetta also does not show it (similar angle to the photo above, though poorer quality). Presumably either its a case of the port being closed (and the lid painted the creamy white of the hull), or a canvas cover pulled over it as in the photo of her as Vernon.

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There aren't really any clear photos of Marlborough's stern, but there's a fantastic one of Duke of Wellington. I see nothing similar there. I have to assume that it was an experimental fitting of some kind (and the more I loo at it, the more it looks like a projecting feature from the hull, rather than simply an open hatch).

 

Everyone's theories/guesses seem plausible... I'll just have to interpret it as best I can! and keep looking for more photos. Surprising how many there are from that time (good ones, too!)

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To muddy things even further, here's a photo of Marlborough on a different day in Grand Harbour, and there's no sign of it...Marlb-notthere.thumb.jpg.b842cb5581036229c3f3963c74641e16.jpg

 

And this one's amazing - Marlborough in 1855, a few hours/days after being launched (well, the launching being completed, as it took a while!!), and no sign of it here either...

1991021638_Marlboroughlaunch.jpg.21fbb2fede2c643e4806fe68f1f64d38.jpg

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I’ve been wondering if they’re not modified gun ports for a slide-carriage gun. I had a look at Wikipedia and it claims that later in its career, the ship was fitted with one 7” 110lb Armstrong breech loader. Perhaps it was mounted forward and required wider ports in order to allow it to be traversed, from a central position, either port or starboard.

 

Andy

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Could be... racers are marked on the plans for one of the decks (I think that was the forecastle, for the 'pivot'-mounted 68 pdr - can't quite remember for certain though so will have to wait until my copies arrive).

 

The Wiki article is a little confused I think. These ships were originally designed to be 121 gun pure sail ships. They were lengthened on the stocks to allow the steam engines to be fitted, and so they ended up as 131 gun ships. As far as I can tell, that's how they were when commissioned. Then at some point after she started harbour service (only 9 years later), she was reduced to 98 guns (1870, according to the article) - and I've no idea what they were. It's not clear where the 121-gun armament disposition figures came from in that article so I would treat with a little scepticism for now. Would need to have a look at the Progress Book to find out for sure.

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Taken from Andrew Lambert's "The last sailing Battlefleet", the Queen class were provisionally designed for 110 guns, all 32lb  with the exception of two 68lb cannons on each of the lower and middle gun deck.  The total also include two 68lb focsl carronades.  While still on the stocks, and based on experience with the launched Queen, three ships were lengthened by 3 feet at the bow to accommodate 118 or 120 guns (including a full lower gun deck of 68lb cannons), but not as a result of steam modification.    Marlborough which was the least advanced, was further redesigned to carry 68lb cannon on all decks (!) at launch.

 

Unfortunately I have no information on any subsequent changes in armament, before or after lengthening to accommodate steam, but clearly that was at some point after initial launching, and born out by the photos above.

 

Sadly after reviewing every photograph of both pre and post steam ships, I can't see any similar structure to the question that started this thread.  My view, they appear more along the line of outboard lights than any sort of armament - why would any further armament addition not use one of the already cut gun ports, makes no sense from an engineering standpoint to cut another port right between 2 perfectly good ones.  Just my 2c...

Edited by Beef Wellington
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Interesting - I'm working on the information Rif Winfield gives in his book covering 1817-1863. I've never seen reference to an all 68 pdr load-out before! I'm going to have to examine the progress book to set this all in order I think.

 

Duke of Wellington, Marlborough and the other three of this loose 'class' probably bear only an academic relationship with Queen. The design was quite substantially modified between Symonds' departure and their launch under Walker. DoW was lengthened by 25 feet midships 23 feet amidships and 8 feet in the run; Marlborough had the same expansions, plus an additional 5 feet at the bow (which accounts for the extra two gunports there - gundeck and upper deck).

 

The scope of Lambert's book ends before this ship was finished. I wonder if his information refers to an earlier version of the draft? The progress book should reveal all, anyway.

Edited by Martocticvs
correcting figures
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  • 2 weeks later...

OK, now that I'm in possession of the plans I can compare some of these theories with what's drawn. The plans I have are as-fitted plans from 1861, drawn up at Portsmouth Dockyard.

 

Firstly, it can be nothing to do with the Sickbay, since that is located on the Middle deck. There is nothing marked on the Upper (Main) deck plan in this area. The plans are quite detailed with numerous annotations to tell us what various features were, and given that we don't see this feature on other ships, it is surprising that it is missing. So presumably it is a purely external fitting; it does share some similarities with the Port/Starboard lights on HMS Warrior, so perhaps that is the correct theory?

 

 

Armaments-wise, it gets really interesting (and confusing!) On the forecastle there are racers, pretty much identical to the ones on Warrior - that ship has a 110 pdr mounted there. Marlborough's plans however have a labelled area just aft of the racers for Armstrong 100 pdr Shot. I am aware that they briefly tested a 100 pdr RML, but considered it ineffective. Suggestion here though is that she had one on her forecastle in 1861. Several shot garlands are shown fore and aft of the funnel, but their sizes are not specified (I presume 32 pdr).

 

On the Main (upper) deck, there are several lockers for 40 pdr Armstrong shot, so some/all of the guns on that deck were clearly those. No other shot types are indicated for that deck.

 

On the Middle deck there is quite a mixture. More 40 pdr Armstrong shot locations are marked, as well as garlands filled with 8in shot (sic), and an even larger quantity of 6in shot. I again presume this to be 32 pdr shot, since that has a diameter of a little over 6in, and I'm not aware of any other 6in ordnance from the period...

 

No shot storage is indicated at all for the lower deck. There's plenty more Armstrong 40 pdr storage on the Orlop. In the hold there are a pair of shot lockers (no size given), and a pair of shell rooms. All this gives the strong impression that the 40pdrs formed the main part of her armament at this point in time.

 

Each plan sheet makes clear the ship carries 131 guns at the time, so neither of the dispositions quoted in the Wiki article can be correct for this point in her career. Further research needed, but this mixture makes it rather more interesting IMO!

 

 

Edited by Martocticvs
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Maybe this might help. In the book “Fighting Ships 1850-1950” by Sam Willis there’s an excellent broadside cutaway illustration of the Marlborough. (Those are just a couple of quick cellphone camera snaps, it’s a coffee table book that’s, well, literally a coffee table)

A62D92CA-C9BF-49E2-BF1B-E13201278E8C.jpeg

97F4EA93-3396-4052-B852-484E31BF939F.jpeg

Edited by realworkingsailor
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Thanks! That's a nice cross-section. That's clearly a 68pdr or 8in gun in the pivot position on the forecastle, which is in line with the Winfield armament figures. I suspect his figures are correct for the ship between commissioning and 1861.

 

I have been doing some reading today, and have concluded that Marlborough carried an Armstrong 7in (110pdr) RBL on her forecastle from September 1861 onwards, despite the '100 pdr shot' callouts on the plans. This is the very same gun as found on Warrior. I'm confident that it was this gun, as it was originally intended to fire a 100 lb shot, but this was increased before it was put into service (and being a non-spherical shot, this was presumably a relatively simple change). And there are no alternative guns of this calibre. The plans must have been drawn before this change was made/known about. These guns didn't see service for long, as they had low muzzle velocity and poor penetrative performance compared with smooth bore guns of the time; also the breech loading mechanism was prone to problems, and the vent block was another source of issues. The Admiralty quickly concluded that they were unsuitable for use as broadside guns, but acceptable as bow chasers, and they replaced 68pdrs and 8in guns in this position on several ships from 1861 onwards.

 

The 40pdr had been around a little longer, and seems to have been better regarded. Clearly Marlborough put into Portsmouth sometime in 1861 for a refit, during which time her armament was upgraded. A quantity of these 40pdrs must have been brought on board to replace some of the 32pdrs. She must have retained some or all of her 8in guns at this time. It was a period of considerable flux in this regard; I can't rely on published sources for this as the authors are unlikely to convey this degree of alteration for a single ship, and no one has written a book solely on these ships! There still is no decent reference material on the guns of this period either (DK Brown bemoans this in his book Before the Ironclad, which was written 30 years ago!). From a modeller's point of view, the guns themselves aren't too big a problem - but the carriages...

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  • 1 year later...

So this is still in the back of my mind as a future project, and whilst doing some browsing through the IWM catalogue earlier, I stumbled across a few photos of Marlborough from sometime between 1903 and when she was sold off for scrap. There's not any information on this photo to date it*, however it is *very* clear, and we get a fantastic shot of this feature! And I'm still none the wiser 🤪

 

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205274093

 

iwm-marlborough.png

 

[Edit] This lithograph https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205262052 appears to show the anchor chain being led up to that feature. Perhaps a hook of some kind was passed out through what definitely looks like a small opening and used to haul the anchor chain up out of the water when underway...

 

litho-anchor.png.31e7460f3ce24d0cb52929db6ad37d8d.png

 

[Second edit] *Since there's a lack of an enlarged opening in the bow where the bridge was attached, and there being another photo dated 1903 which shows her housed over, with a bridge running into the bow of her near-sister HMS Duke of Wellington, this photo must be earlier than that. In 1904 she was added to HMS Vernon.

Edited by Martocticvs
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On 7/26/2019 at 7:01 PM, Beef Wellington said:

Taken from Andrew Lambert's "The last sailing Battlefleet" ... was further redesigned to carry 68lb cannon on all decks (!) at launch.

 

I wonder if that is a slight misunderstanding/confusion... besides the regular 32 pounders, she was carrying several 8-inch shell guns at launch, and going by the refit plans, these stayed with her until the end of her commissioned life. The 68 pounders had a calibre of a little over 8 inches, so these two guns could perhaps be muddled without delving into it further...

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